As­ton­ish­ing 500,000 vol­un­teers to help out ++ Ex­pert says virus could peak by Easter ++ 3.5m test­ing kits ‘are nearly ready’

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By So­phie Bor­land, Eleanor Hayward and Victoria Allen

AN IN­CRED­I­BLE half a mil­lion vol­un­teers have en­listed in an NHS army to fight coro­n­avirus.

The aim was to re­cruit 250,000 in a week but dou­ble that num­ber signed up in the first day – a rate of five a sec­ond.

They will now sup­port up to 1.5mil­lion pa­tients whose cancer or other se­ri­ous ill­ness means they must stay at home for three months to try to avoid Covid-19. The over­whelm­ing pub­lic re­sponse came on the first real day of op­ti­mism about the ram­pag­ing pandemic.

In­ten­sive care units will now prob­a­bly be able to cope with the out­break thanks to the strict

lock­down, ac­cord­ing to Neil Fer­gu­son, a pro­fes­sor ad­vis­ing the Gov­ern­ment.

A Univer­sity of Ox­ford aca­demic then said a vac­cine might be avail­able within six months. That was fol­lowed by the deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer sug­gest­ing we could be over the peak of the cri­sis in three weeks.

Pub­lic Health Eng­land also said it hoped to be able to roll out 3.5mil­lion tests within days to find out who has had the virus and now has im­mu­nity.

The NHS re­ported last night that Covid19 had claimed an­other 41 lives in Bri­tain, a sharp fall from the 87 on Mon­day. In other de­vel­op­ments:

▪ Prince Charles tested pos­i­tive for the virus but is said to have mild symp­toms;

▪ Par­lia­ment was shut down and will re­main closed for nearly a month;

▪ Boris Johnson will hold a con­fer­ence call with world lead­ers to­day to co-or­di­nate a global re­sponse;

▪ The PM warned re­tail­ers they faced wartime-style laws if caught prof­i­teer­ing;

▪ The NHS promised to pro­vide free park­ing for all health­care staff for the du­ra­tion of the out­break;

▪ The Gov­ern­ment launched a What­sApp ser­vice to pro­vide trust­wor­thy in­for­ma­tion on symp­toms, preven­tion and the lat­est num­ber of cases;

▪ A row erupted over the num­bers still be­ing forced into work, while po­lice con­tin­ued to en­force breaches of the lock­down or­der;

▪ A 21-year-old woman with no un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions has died from coro­n­avirus along with a UK diplo­mat in his 30s;

▪ Thou­sands of pris­on­ers may be freed fol­low­ing the first death in a jail;

▪ The Chan­cel­lor pre­pared to re­veal a pack­age to help the self em­ployed;

n A row erupted over how banks were ad­min­is­ter­ing busi­ness cri­sis loans;

▪ Nearly half a mil­lion Bri­tons claimed Universal Credit af­ter los­ing their jobs.

Fig­ures from NHS Eng­land show that as of 7.45pm yes­ter­day, 504,303 in­di­vid­u­als had reg­is­tered to be ‘vol­un­teer re­spon­ders’, far ex­ceed­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of of­fi­cials in the NHS and the Gov­ern­ment.

They will vol­un­teer in one of four roles in­clud­ing col­lect­ing gro­ceries or pre­scrip­tions, bring­ing pa­tients home from hos­pi­tal, making reg­u­lar phone calls or de­liv­er­ing sup­plies to NHS sites and phar­ma­cies.

Boris Johnson said he wanted to ‘of­fer a spe­cial thank you to ev­ery­one who has now vol­un­teered to help the NHS’. He added: ORIG­I­NAL COPY . ORIG­I­NAL COPY . ORIG­I­NAL COPY . ORIG­I­NAL COPY . ORIG­I­NAL COPY

‘They will be ab­so­lutely cru­cial in the fight against this virus.’

The ap­peal was launched on Tues­day by health Sec­re­tary Matt han­cock who paid a spe­cial trib­ute to the Daily Mail’s ‘bril­liant’ hos­pi­tal help­force cam­paign of last year.

Many of the new vol­un­teers had lost their jobs as a re­sult of the coro­n­avirus out­break. They in­clude flight at­ten­dants, per­form­ers who should have been on stage and cos­tume de­sign­ers at a loose end.

The NHS has now ex­panded its tar­get to 750,000 vol­un­teers although of­fi­cials stressed there was no limit.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Sir Si­mon Stevens said: ‘We are blown away by this re­sponse and the kind­ness of our country.

‘I can’t thank those enough who have pledged to de­vote their time to help­ing oth­ers at what is a chal­leng­ing and un­cer­tain time for you and your fam­i­lies.’

Last night the Royal Fam­ily tweeted: ‘Vol­un­teers al­ways have a huge role to play in so­ci­ety, but never more so than in dif­fi­cult times – and for that we sa­lute you.’

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